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[Sad, painful news in the poetry world! I‘ve been upset, walking around in a gloom after reading about Ruth Padel withdrawing from the Oxford Poetry Chair, perhaps having to do with the road to hell being paved with good intentions. (More on this in the previous post.) I need to write about a British woman author whose words can cheer me up.]

A book to celebrate. It’s my very favorite biography: Mary: A Flesh and Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother. The year: 2004. The author – Lesley Hazleton – rocks!

I didn’t want to put the book down. There may be new books on Mary (referred to here as Maryam), but this is a fantastic read. From the introduction: “There is nothing meek and mild about Maryam. She is neither pale nor passive. Se emerges as far more than we have accepted her as being: a strong woman of ability and wisdom who actively chose her role in history, and lived it to the fullest.” Lesley writes non-fiction as if she were unfolding a page-turning novel on a water slide of words. She wrote as a journalist for a long time and lived in the Middle East. She snoops and story-tracks, burrows and digs into research. She’s a tall, slim, Brit with a voice like Vanessa Redgrave; a former small plane pilot and automotive expert who shared from her book : Everything Women Always Wanted to Know About Cars… on Good Morning America. She says: “Some years ago I spent a starlit night in the sand dunes of the northern Sinai munching on giant olives and listening to Beduin elders recite long narrative poems … This is why we still speak of great story tellers, not great story writers.” Good journalists always drink from the closest source; then one thing leads to another – “Mary…” has 208 meticulous footnotes!tamam photo

 I meet her at Ghost Ranch near Taos, New Mexico, at A Room of Her Own writing retreat, where she read something from her then soon-to-be-released book, Jezebel: The Untold Story of the Bible’s Harlot Queen. I hope there’s a movie coming from that book.

 

What I love about Mary is the flesh and blood part. She comes to life. “[She is] – not the gilded image in the convent school, but the wiry, dark-skinned, hard muscled Maryam, barely out of adolescence when she gave birth, her face lined by hard work and harder experience, etched deep by violence and struggle, survival and loss, determination and courage.”

 From a review  in Amazon: “Hazelton’s musings on the Resurrection and on the meaning of Mary’s virginity are dazzling to read and weighty to ponder.” Ilene Cooper

 “Each time a woman gives birth, each time a woman sits between another’s legs and cradles the emerging newborn’s head, each time a woman sings in joy or wails in mourning, seeks out knowledge or teaches it to others… the mantle of Maryam is handed on.”  (All italic quotes from Mary)

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